I'd better look for an exit. After losing Fin's scouting Tengu yesterday we may need to buy a new strategic cruiser. An extra signature in the home system today turns out to be some more rocks this time, so I take the only option for a first step and jump through our static wormhole to the neighbouring class 3 w-space system. My directional scanner is clear from the K162 in C3a, letting me launch probes, cloak, and warp away to explore. My probes return eleven anomalies, nine signatures, and one ship, the ship unsurprisingly turning out to be unpiloted in one of two towers around a distant planet. After a bit more exploring uncovering a third tower, I sift through the signatures.
Rocks, gas, and three wormholes is a decent result, with a weak wormhole signature turning out to be a T405 outbound connection to class 4 w-space. That could lead to more interesting w-space systems, but not just yet. I warp to the other two wormholes, seeing a static exit to low-sec and a K162 from high-sec that would have been handy were it not reaching the end of its life, and turn around to warp my ship back to the T405 connection. Approaching the wormhole I update d-scan, as is my custom, and I notice now some scanning probes in the system, along with a Buzzard covert operations boat. That wasn't here before, and I am out of range of the towers, so he's come from somewhere.
I can't locate the Buzzard before he has a complement of probes launched and is cloaked, so I warp away, re-launch my own probes, and see if there are any new signatures. Nope, nothing new. The Buzzard must either be local, which his lack of presence at a tower suggests he isn't, or has come from one of the other wormholes. I would be surprised if a tourist came through the EOL K162 from high-sec, but also equally surprised if he found one of the other two connections I've probably just opened quite so soon. There's not much I can do about him for now, though, so I recall my probes, warp back to the T405, and jump through to C4a.
Okay, the Buzzard spotted this K162 opening with surprising speed and came through when I warped to the other connections in C3a. I know this because of the Nighthawk command ship and Malediction interceptor currently sitting on the wormhole in C4a, already handily marked as hostile towards our alliance for my convenience. I think about jumping right back through the wormhole, but remember my own advice about giving it a go at getting clear on this side first. I'd rather get caught and have to escape than willingly polarise my ship for no good reason, particularly with an interceptor apparently waiting for me. I move away from the wormhole, pulsing my micro warp drive, and cloak. Importantly, I also jink after cloaking, pushing my Loki strategic cruiser off its predictable path.
The Malediction naturally tries to find me, racing towards where my Loki was, but thankfully thwarted by my evasive manoeuvre, although he still gets pretty close. I'm not sure if the black hole phenomenon in this system is helping him or me more, but I'm safe for now. I'd better stay safe too, rather than rely on the interceptor not finding me, so I back off even further from the wormhole as a Cheetah cov-ops returns from C3a. All the ship names have the same prefix as the Buzzard I saw in the other system, so its safe to say they are affiliated, and their aggressive stance, alloyed by two Hurricane battlecruisers warping to join the small camp on the wormhole, makes it less of a surprise that they found this K162 so quickly. But if you're going to name a ship, at least get the spelling right.
With a camp forming on the wormhole waiting for me I'm in no hurry to head back, so I warp away to take a look around. D-scan is showing me thirteen ships, including the ones on the wormhole but not cloakers, and one tower. Well, I suppose if they're looking for me I should at least try to divide their attention. I launch probes and scan, not trying to hide my efforts or show any proficiency. The four anomalies and three signatures won't take much time to resolve, but if I make a meal of it the locals may think I'm an easier catch. And I've already split the camp. Although only one ship has moved from the main group to the system's static wormhole, a connection to class 5 w-space and a gravimetric site being the two signatures I resolve, at least it's something. I think.
I keep my probes visible in the system as I ponder my options. I could try to run back through the camp, and even though the interceptor is rather dangerous this may be my best option. I foolishly still don't exit w-space to bookmark the k-space side of a wormhole as a routine, so I don't have a route home should I dive through the wormhole to class 5 w-space. And although I could jump through the static wormhole to escape the fleet's attention, I rather fear that the Harbinger battlecruiser sitting off the connection is not here to engage me but to monitor. If I head this way, the fleet will move their camp along, and I will simply be one step further from home with the same dilemma.
I have other options. I could go off-line in this system and hope to return later when the fleet has dispersed, probably isolated from home but with a better chance of leaving the system intact. I could even try to be clever, and jump to C5a, wait a short amount of time, and jump back to warp across the system, hopefully passing the fleet moving the camp my way, but that is expecting too much and could easily have me polarised and caught. I think I'll just make a break back to C3a, taking the risk. I recall my probes and warp to the wormhole, where the ships have now all disappeared, and although I fancy they have gone to the class 3 system to engage Sleepers I suspect they are simply waiting for me. This way, they won't have to decloak, and they can follow me back through the wormhole without polarising themselves. Oh well, here goes.
Yep, the fleet is on the wormhole in C3a. But I am quite lucky in where I've appeared, as I am far enough from the wormhole to cloak immediately and some distance from all of the ships. Scattered drones be damned, this is looking positive. I perform my well-rehearsed practice of moving, burning, cloaking, and once again jinking but this time towards a planet and engaging my warp drive as I do. And I'm safe. Or I think I am. It looks like a ship throws a cluster of drones in my direction, although it's explained to me later that the Malediction is probably in the centre of them, and one gets close enough to just clip the edge of my ship, dropping my cloak.
I try to reactivate my cloak but I'm being targeted. That would also explain why I'm not in warp yet, and I damn Minmatar technology. I've been under the impression that Minnie ships are fast and agile, but I've seen numbers that say the Loki is slower to align for warp than the Tengu, which I switched from for my scanning boat. I don't know if that second or two was the difference between warping away and getting caught this time, but I know that all of those pulsating red boxes on my HUD mean that I'm in trouble. I try to turn my ship around to get to the wormhole, but the pulse of my micro warp drive has taken me far out of jump range, and naturally my micro warp drive is now being scrambled by one of the hostile ships swarming around me.
The Falcon recon ship jamming my targeting systems is just overkill, and really not necessary, but it hammers home my being completely overwhelmed. I align my Loki back to an arbitrary planet, wait until my ship is near destruction, so that there is little chance of the hostiles recovering it intact, and eject. I warp my pod clear of the fleet seemingly a split-second before my Loki explodes, saving me the skill point loss and my clone, and get a couple of 'gf's in the local communication channel. I'm not sure I put up much of a fight, frankly.
I still need to save my pod, though. I may be clear of the fleet but I am not home, and rather than be shipless by heading home, or run through the stable but potentially far-from-anywhere exit to low-sec, I point my pod to the K162 from high-sec. Happy to see it still wobbling away, I exit w-space to appear in a system in Khanid, a mere eight hops from Amarr. That's pretty good, as I will be able to pick up a new ship pretty quickly, and maybe even get back through the same wormhole in time. This gives me a chance to marvel at the brass of the pilots I just encountered, who send me a mail expressing concern about my ability to get back to my home system. Sure, let me join the fleet and warp my pod to your kind and sensitive souls in w-space, who are only looking out for my best interests. After all, I was only born yesterday. I wonder if that ever works.
Reaching Amarr is simplicity itself, as is buying and fitting a replacement ship. I wish the same could be said for naming it. I didn't quite vet the winning entries to my ship-naming competition thoroughly enough, as 'You'll Thank Me Later' is one letter too long, although I think I'd rather blame the bizarrely limited allowed character count. 'You'll Thank Me Late' doesn't carry the same weight, neither does 'Thank Me Later', so I have to swallow my pride and omit the apostrophe. It's overused elsewhere, I suppose. And with my new ship, name and all—the competition really has helped me out—I head back through high-sec stargates to the exit system, where I see one of the hostile fleet in the local channel, no doubt waiting for my return.
The hostile pilot is gone a moment later, but I'm not fooled. I see no point in running a second gauntlet, particularly as I suspect the fleet is experienced enough to have formed on our static wormhole and not the high-sec connection, so rather than risk my ship for no good reason a second time in an hour I resign myself to spending some time in empire space. It turns out that not only did I need to find an exit, if for the wrong reasons, but that EOL exit to high-sec came in useful after all. I park my ship in a safe spot, not caring for stations, and go off-line, knowing that by doing so I am isolating myself from home for sure. Never mind, it's time for a sammich!